In considering possible links between vitiligo and other diseases, I didn't want to leave out lupus, since the medical literature I've seen has sometimes pointed to an association between the two conditions - and also for the altogether less scientific reason that Michael Jackson, who famously suffered from vitiligo for a large portion of his life, was also rumoured to have lupus.
Before discussing whether or not there actually is any link between the two conditions it would, of course, be useful to know what lupus is.
Lupus is yet another autoimmune disease (one of around 80). Autoimmune diseases occur when the body's defence system produces antibodies that attack its own cells, resulting in inflammation and disease. There are two main types of lupus: discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) – in which only the skin is involved - and systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE) – which can also affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. Up to 10% of people with discoid lupus (lupus limited to the skin) eventually develop the systemic form of lupus.
SLE can cause various – often intermittent - symptoms in many different parts of the body: most commonly joint pains, skin rashes and extreme fatigue. Its severity can range from very mild to extremely serious, depending on which of the body’s organs are affected and it is 8 – 9 times more common in women than in men.
Higher instances of other autoimmune disorders among those with vitiligo, as compared to the general population, have been very widely reported - in particular, autoimmune thyroid disease, pernicious anaemia and Addison's disease and inflammatory bowel disease. But, whereas autoimmune thyroid disease is quite often associated with systemic lupus erythematosus, instances of SLE existing alongside vitiligo are not that common and cases of vitiligo coexisting with discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) are even more rare.
So, it appears to be the case that, although vitiligo and lupus are both considered to be autoimmune diseases and although people with autoimmune diseases often suffer from more than one, the likelihood of having both lupus and vitiligo is relatively low.
My name is Caroline.